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Bateman & Lamar Have Chemistry Already

Rashod Bateman at practice
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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What a change a week makes! After consecutive high-pass-volume games, the Ravens turned back the clock to 2019, or maybe even 2018, with a ball-control strangling of the Chargers. Thirty-eight minutes of possession, 187 rushing yards, double the first downs of the opponent. The Ravens first two drives totaled almost 12 mins of clock time, and resulted in touchdowns. Their first drive after halftime took up literally half of the 3rd quarter (7:21). Then they chewed up the rest of the quarter when they got the ball back at the 4:40 mark. They played keep-away.

With the running game so effective, and the defense shutting things down, Greg Roman saw no need to get cute, and this led to Lamar’s worst statistical day of the season: only 167 passing yards (despite 70% completions), a passer rating of only 68.

I personally think Lamar’s actual play was better than the stats show. Mike Tanier wrote this for Football Outsiders:

Jackson’s box score stats against the Chargers weren’t all that impressive … But Jackson spent Sunday afternoon double-clutching and pump-faking to get receivers open on short passes, side-arming throws into tight windows, and scrambling judiciously for first downs. Jackson proved that he can be a game manager against a quality opponent if called upon.

That’s how I saw it too. Some checkdowns and using the Running Backs in the passing game (four targets); Three scrambles for 28 yards (out of his five called runs). Taking what the defense gives.

Here are the game stats:

Again with nine targeted players. Lamar spreading the ball around has become the norm. This is three games in a row with 8+ players seeing looks.

The only receiver with a statistically “good” day was Mark Andrews. This has been a Pro Bowl season so far for him. He and Travis Kelce are tied for the league lead in receiving yards for a Tight End; the only Tight Ends with 10+ targets who have a higher yards-target are David Njoku & Dallas Goedert & ex-Raven Maxx Williams, all on less than half the volume Andrews has. If Andrews keeps up this level of production, he’ll be in the discussion for All-Pro honors at the end of the year.

Everyone else had a “meh” day statistically. But they moved the chains.

The exciting thing here is the debut of rookie Rashod Bateman. His stats aren’t much, but I was very impressed with the way he moved. He was jittery, and was able to get separation. The Ravens didn’t ease him in, whatsoever. Bateman played 45 snaps – only Marquise Brown had more, among targeted players. Maybe the most impressive thing about Bateman was how much Lamar seemed to trust him. Bateman tied with Mark Andrews with the most targets for the game. Lamar threw it to Bateman on 3rd down, he threw it to him in traffic. I kind of think that first interception was Lamar being too excited to throw it to Bateman: he didn’t take the time to see the undercutting linebacker, Lamar’s worst decision of the game. When you see this kind of rapport between receiver and quarterback, that’s exciting. It’s what Lamar has with Mark Andrews, and with Marquise Brown. Bateman looked to me like a player who can be very, very productive with Lamar.

I have been Miles Boykin’s most vocal supporter on the RSR forum, so it’s worth noting that Boykin also made his receiving debut in this game. He & Lamar have never shown the kind of rapport that seems to have sprung up instantly with Bateman. It’s interesting to look at the differences between Boykin & Bateman as players. Boykin is bigger/stronger/faster than Bateman. He’s a smooth player. What Boykin doesn’t have is the jittery, twitchy, instant change-of-direction that Bateman has. Marquise Brown has that too, as does Lamar himself. Bateman is more Lamar’s “kind” of player. More importantly, Bateman shows advanced feel for route running, for setting up defenders and fooling them, and showing himself to the quarterback at the right time. Boykin hasn’t shown those things.

Bateman getting 45 snaps to Boykin’s four, spells the end of the line for Boykin being in the rotation at Wide Receiver.  That’s a shame, because he’s a talent that a team should be able to get something out of. I personally think that if Boykin had been drafted into another situation, he’d have had a good career. If he’d joined the Packers in 2019, I think he’d be a thousand-yard guy: Aaron Rodgers likes to make exactly the kind of throws that Boykin gets open for. But in Baltimore, his only position is “blocking wide receiver,” which doesn’t even exist in any other offense but Greg Roman’s. Vaya con dios, Miles.

Here are the Ravens season receiving stats:

Marquise Brown is still in the NFL’s top-ten for receiving yards, on pace for about 1300 in a 16 game season. Mark Andrews is 14th, on pace for about 1250.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens distribute the targets between Bateman and Sammy Watkins, when Watkins returns.

Remember the NFL average yards-per-target last year was 7.55.  So everyone below that number in the chart would be “below average” in receiving efficiency.  But Running Backs are always lower than Wide Receivers in that stat, so don’t hold them to the same standard.

Lamar is 10th in the NFL in passing yards; 5th in yards-per-attempt.

Next Up: Divisional play!  Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals!   Remember when we thought A.J. Green was a pain in the ass? Man, we are going to hate seeing Ja’Marr Chase twice a year for the foreseeable future.

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